Sunday, December 18, 2005

One of Chris' fancy pens exploded in the dryer. He opened the door and found that half of his clothes were splotched by ink, black stains rubbed around the cylinder by the churning of the fabric. It's true that his shirts managed to spread the offending substance around the entire compartment. I felt along the smudges with the pad of my finger. To my relief and Chris' despair, it was all smeary.

"You know what this means?" I asked, excited that it wasn't as grim as it appeared, in terms of far reaching consequences for our future loads of laundry.

"Sitting in the freezing cold garage while scrubbing permanent ink out of the dryer?" he guessed, not nearly as thrilled as I was.

And so, what was initially thought of by me as the ruin of an expensive appliance turned out to be no more complicated to clean up than with a sponge and some sudsy water.

It was cold in the garage though. Portly kept him company while he scrubbed.

Stupid pen.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Everytime Chris moved last night, I woke up. Not just the sort of jostled out of deep sleep that is easily returned to by changing positions and getting my face out of the drool spot either. No. Everytime he sighed, or turned a page, or tried to fend off the cat, I came out of sleep like it was a cannon I was being shot out of. Several times I snorted, so quick was my desperate inhalation.

Then I'd start thinking about things that I only ever think about, at least in such a stark manner, at 3am. What is keeping me breathing? If I subconsciously told my lungs to stop doing it, maybe as a joke, would my brain comply anyway? What if I made myself stop breathing in my sleep, and then forgot how to get started again? Heavy stuff.

Clicking into more practical gears, my head went into asthma panic overdrive. All this thinking about breathing or not led me right into this: If I'm thinking so much about breathing and my abilities to continue to do so, is my body trying to send up the red flags that something is about to happen to hinder my abilities to continue with this activity? Like my own personal bronchial constriction breathing-lung dog? Oh, crap.

So I started to breathe very deliberately, checking for changes in raspiness and how deep each one was. And then every subtle variation meant a whole list of calamities; heart attack, pneumonia, emphysema, supernatural possession. Smothered by the spirit of the Lord. Going straight to hell for bringing up my sister's secret teenage oregano stash and the embarrasment my mom lived through when she busted Kristi on it, only to be confronted with the fact that it wasn't drugs at all, but just a container of spice. Shouldn't have tried to talk to her about that on the phone the other night. It's all coming back to suck the oxygen right out of my lungs now.

Chris moves again, tossing his book on the floor. It takes my alertness to the next level. Now I am convinced that while I am having a CO2 induced seizure that the house will be broken into and pillaged. Chris will be knocked out with his own bat while trying to call the police from his studio, and the cat will escape into the cold night, only to be eaten by the friendly neighborhood pit bull. And I, I will be trapped by my own inability to breathe, like a fish on a shag rug, and will not be able to stop the theives from making off with my clip art collection and my cheap ass DVD player that really doesn't work anymore.

And as long as they're at it, they might as well take the two ancient and malfunctioning reel to reel players that spark and make the lights flicker when they are plugged in. And that box of clothes I've been meaning to take to the Goodwill. And my jar of pennies, although I had to cash them in a few weeks ago to buy something that seemed important at the time, so there aren't that many to weigh them down. No, they'll be able to make a quick getaway.

But now Chris is fussing around with the blankets and all the noises I hear as crystal clear subside as I realize just how fucking cold it is in our house as the main quilt gets yanked off my shoulder. I wonder if I can see my breath. Our furnace is an electricity hog and the windows are not yet plasticized and the wonderful fans that keep our bathroom and kitchen smoke and steam free are like open portholes into frigid wind tunnels. They siphon the wind directly into those two rooms, making the fridge obsolete. We set the thermostat at 62 and wear our hats, scarves, and gloves. We build little fires in the fireplace and struggle to keep them going. I wonder why we haven't gone yet to the hardware store for puffy tape to put around the door leading into the garage. Payday sparkles in the distance, promising new ways to help us shore up our battlestation against the surprisingly crisp Portland winter. I make a mental wishlist for heatmaking/saving devices.

Portly is now off the bed, probably because her human companions aren't doing anything to help keep her still and asleep. She claws the chair in the next room, ripping sounds coming from the hallway.

"Does Portly have any Crunchies?" Chris mumbles, thinking an empty food dish might cause her to act out.

"She did when we went to bed."

"Maybe it's time to put her in the garage."

"But it's cold out there."


By the time 5am or so rolls around, Chris gives up and puts pants on, then goes to some other location to do god knows what. I try to drift off again, but feel the same steady pull of neurosis that kept waking me up to begin with. I dream about a nap. Maybe later, maybe later.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I spent years looking for the perfect coffee cup for work. Somthing that sealed completely so I could toss it in my bag, easily washable, small enough so that if my order wasn't heard I wouldn't walk out with a beverage big enough for a small horse.

I found it. It holds only 8 ounces, is the blue of the summer sky, and keeps my tea hot until it's time to go home.

One problem. I just discovered it. There is a small space between the rubber part of the lid that keeps the liquid in and the cool blue metal top, rounded like an unfired bullet.

Unbeknownst to me, chai has been collecting in this space for several weeks. I just thought to unscrew it to look in there 4 minutes ago, as I noticed what I was afraid was a leak. I am still fighting a serious gag reflex. Just looking at the thing makes me feel green.

And so the search for the perfect coffee cup continues...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My father is being forced into early retirement. He is vague about the details, and doesn't answer any questions he doesn't want to. "Forced" is his word. I imagine the state is tired of trying to find something for him to do, as he hasn't really had a permanent place since they shut down the print shop he ran years ago. We have no idea what he has been up to. We know that he likes Pier One and Barnes and Noble in the strip mall near his house in the suburbs.

My mom said she saw him driving the other day in town while she was waiting at a stop sign. She pulled out behind him, and as the distance she followed him turned into many blocks, she felt the rage and anger she thought she had cut loose threatening her judgment.

"It took every fiber of my being to keep from running him over."

"But wasn't he driving his truck? How could you run him over in his truck?"

"Oh, you weren't married to him or you'd know."

My poor parents, fueled by their mutual distain for each other, living lives in such close proximity. Do they choose this because of some deep rooted dependence on each other, no matter how twisted? Or is it something like they each think that the area was theirs first? They just both can't imagine living anywhere else?

Robert and I share a city, but it's a million people here vs 12000 there. It's easier to divide up a town if it has more than one fancy bar and one grocery store.

Oh, the horror of bumping into your exhusband when you look like crap and drove to the store in your pajamas because you were too sick to put real clothes on but you needed more canned chicken soup and maybe a few more movies. He's holding his flushed and cute little baby and gesturing to his new wife who has naturally red hair and the Norman Rockwell image is forever seared in your mind as The Thing You Could Not Do. The horror!

We were only married for two years, I can't imagine what it's like for my parents, married for longer than I've been alive.

I told my mom that she should excise the anger and rage in therapy, and she told me she doesn't want to talk about it in therapy because it's too painful. Either she doesn't grasp the idea of counselling or it really is worse than I can conjure up.

Graple. Grumble. Velour. These are words I like, on a completely unrelated note.
The man behind the counter asks me how thick I'd like my salami sliced, and I have no idea what the right answer is, so I grin like a dork and shrug, telling him to 'surprise me.'

He turns to the slicer and makes some minute adjustment, then turns back to me, holding out a seriously thick slice of lunchmeat.

"How's that?" he asks, and waves it at me over the counter, demonstrating its ability to withstand even the most powerful forces of gravity and remain upright.

"That's...uh, fine."

"No, no, you have to take it."

"Oh, okay." I accept the offering of sausage and take a step back. I'm wearing gloves, and little tufts of fur are sticking to the piece of meat. Do I eat it? Is that what he meant for me to do? I take a bite, although I am stuffed from the sushi I gorged on not 30 minutes before.

"Here," he says, handing me another slice. "This should be better."

I can't tell the difference. The second slice he hands me is essentially identical to the first, and I stand uncomfortable and silent as he small talks me through several more pieces.

What is the etiquette? This is why I never buy things from a counter where you have to try to explain and justify your selections to another person. So many opportunities for things to go wrong. Once, I asked for half a bag of lavender and received half a pound, which actually filled up almost 3 bags. I wondered what took the guy so long and why he gave me a weird look. Who would need that much lavender at once? Maybe to fill up an entire comforter?

So I'm still standing there, one glove dangling from my teeth, one hand full of thickly sliced salami, the smell of which is actually a bit too cloying for me at the moment.

The guy asks me if I 'know my salamis' and I squint at him. He asks me what the difference is between the two he's got in the case, and I guess that one is more tangy. I look to him to see if I guessed right. The slices in my hand are getting that warm meat slime. I will have to wash my gloves.

He hands me the bag of lunch meat and I turn away quickly and stuff the pieces I am holding inside, along with the chunks of fluff from my gloves. My hands are oily and smell like a cat treat.

I move on to the frozen juice section where I stoop down and wipe my fingers on the tops of my socks.

Was the meat counter guy messing with me? Or just trying to be nice? I guess I'll be buying my next round of sandwich items pre-packaged.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The large dragon on my back is partially inked in; vermilion and brick red. To color in his wings, head/neck, and arms took 2.5 hours. It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life.


Worse than the day that piece of metal flew into my eye. Worse than cutting the tip of my thumb off on the band saw in Industrial Arts class in 8th grade while trying not to look stupid in front of my caveman classmates. Worse than planting my toddler-sized index finger directly on the heat plate of my dad's shop space heater. Worse than cramps before the advent of The Pill. Perhaps even more painful than flipping over the handlebars of a friend's bike while going over a homemade jump consisting of a sauce pan and a 2X4, although I think the humiliation factor added much to the throbbing of my spilt lip in that case. It was definitely more attention getting than the weak punch delivered to me by a fellow middle-schooler who claimed I "stole her man" when in fact I had never seen the gangly boy before she shoved his picture at me, grabbed my face and then pushed me over into the mud.

But I digress.

I hunched over a vinyl pillow while Matthew drilled ink into my spine, watching with disgust as sweat literally poured down my arms and pooled on the pillow. I bunched up paper towels to pad the absorbency factor. I must have sweated out a half-gallon.

The sound of the needle vibrating, which is something that normally sets the fringy hairs at the back of my neck on edge, although not in a bad way, made my stomach roll over. For the first time in many years, I felt myself wanting to turn around and punch Matthew in the face.

When he told me he was nearly finished, I got really excited."Really? You're done? That wasn't really so bad."

"Well, I'm just going to finish up his other arm here and then you'll have to come back for maybe one or two more sittings."


The whole next day, Chris kept patting me on the back. It made my inner rottweiler quite snarly. Now, a week later, it feels like a bad sunburn. I've been anticipating this as it means the super no-touch feeling will soon be gone.

However, I kept finding what looked like red fish food flakes in my underwear today, and it started to freak me out.

"Where the hell is this flaky stuff coming from?" I wondered aloud in a stall this morning, clearing the room in three seconds flat.

After a cool moment of panic, it hit me: The extra ink and dead skin are peeling and sliding down my back. Thank God! No, wait, that's gross. But thank God!

Underpants With Fish Flakes. Look for their new album to hit stores this fall!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I buy all my underwear in groups of maybe 10 to 15.

This works out alright during the first part of the life cycle of a pair of panties because, well, they're new. The elastic is stretchy, the microfiber feels smooth and unpilled, the tag still has all the information on it. Your pets don't take perverse pleasure in carting them around in their mouths. And no matter who you are or what size you wear, everyone feels hot in new underwear.

Even the second stage of life is okay, because here you develop your favorite pairs to go with certain clothes. Sort of a Superman costume under your boring work outfit. This is also where the wheat gets separated from the chaff. The cute polka dot pair that you thought might bring out the playful side of your significant other have been rejected with a smirk. You realize the pair with the alligator shouting "HAPPY TIME!" while reclining under a rainbow that you bought only for the novelty is actually the most flattering on your behind. Thank God those thongs you bought were all black! And what about the ones your sister held up to your head and said "Well, these say they're your size, but I'll be damned if you're going to be able to fit your whole ass in them." Ha! Not only do they fit, but they're actually too big.

The longest stretch in the life cycle of the panty herd is after the breaking in phase, when life returns to its non-new-panty plain-old day to day grind. You have some good days where all your clothes come together to make you look and feel like a rock star. Other days you choose poorly and end up feeling like your skirt and your panties have transformed into velcro. Your significant other has his/her favorite pairs, but no longer feels it necessary to take them off with his/her teeth.

And then, inevitably, comes the day when you pull on your old reliables, and the elastic no longer snaps reassuringly across your hip tattoos. They sag, they itch, the tag still haunts the small of your back even though you ripped it out months ago.

The weeding of the herd is always a sad day for me. I gather them together, freshly laundered for their final journey, and cut them into tiny pieces. This strategy came about after a friend discovered that her discarded underpants were being dug for by assailants unknown(possibly the dog, but who wants to take chances?) and spirited away or left in tatters on the lawn.

And lo! It was decided to wash and then destroy our loyal servants before disposing of them, so as not to be greeted with any ghastly, creepy, or slobbery sight upon leaving for work in the morning.

And thus ends the lesson for today.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I felt the old familiar pangs of chronic stomach problems on the bus this morning. Luckily, our bus was rerouted due to a shooting downtown and the ride lasted twice as long. And thank god I was one of the many standing unfortunates gripping enormous bags of stuff, hanging onto the bar until my arm started to feel the warning tingles of inadequate circulation.

Otherwise, I might have been able to sit down and curl around my churning stomach, cinch tight my buttocks, and pray that I didn’t finally get to experience anal leakage.

So as we were driving AWAY from our destination on a round-about detour, I recognized that the sort of discomfort coming from my protesting digestive system was its version of a fair warning before it flushed my system of the offending toxin.

I will admit, I have something of a *ahem* delicate constitution. Just glancing sidelong at a bowl of warm potato salad in the sun will give me a rumbly in my tumbly. I am the only person I know who can contract food-borne illnesses through osmosis. So my entire life has been built around keeping myself as stress, gore, and rotten-food free as possible. But sometimes things slip past my goalie. My team will never make the championship.

I tried to hunch over, but the gravity of my enormous bags and the physics of needing to hang on to the bar to keep from assaulting my fellow passengers kept me from succeeding.

My tummy gave another warning twist, and my brain reacted by covering my body with a clammy sweat. Take that!

The bus driver, god love him, was doing his best to keep his place by lurching forward five feet at a time, inching along with all the other irate commuters in the world’s longest conga line.

My traveling companions were deep in conversation about something that I couldn’t have given a flying fuck about, due to the fact that I was weighing out the worst-case scenarios.

I might have to get out at the next stop, or maybe just scream that I need to get off here and now, crawl to the sidewalk, take off my shoes, and just shit right there in front of that antique store. They don’t open until 10am, nobody on the bus would have to know, and I wouldn’t stain my shoes. Yeah, that sounds reasonable.

Luckily, once we turned to get on the bridge, our speed increased to 15 miles an hour, and my stress level dropped a notch. I squeezed my eyes shut and repeated my mantra: If you have to crap your pants in public, it won’t kill you. I was referring to myself in the second person, so it was working already.

The second someone gave up their seat, I flung myself in it and felt a bit more in control. We did loops around downtown, attempting to get back on our route. All the damn one-way streets mocking me!

My companions were adjusting their belongings, still conversing cheerfully, talking about the large coffee beverages they were going to purchase. Ugh! The acidity! My stomach protested the mere idea of that black swill, normally so welcome in my daily routine, by traveling up into the back of my throat.

That did it. I reached for the bell, stamped to the door, and snapped something at my friends. My brain was in survival mode and became hostile to anything or anyone keeping me from my economy sized bottle of Pepto Bismal stashed in my locker.

I took it in my arms like a lost child and sat in the break room, snuggled around it, drinking freely. As the red-hot forks loose in my belly morphed into cool spoons, rubber balls, and finally, sugar lumps dissolving, I apologized to my friends and told them to be thankful that they hadn’t had to witness me crapping on the sidewalk while holding my shoes in my teeth.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

I don't have any idea what color my car is under the filth that covers it.

The man directing traffic at the do-it-yourself car wash gave me a lesson on how to wash my car properly. But let me say that I was aware that I was 'doing it wrong.

"Lemme put a dollar in there for you and show you. See, what you've got to do here is start with the tire wash. You hold the sprayer until it turns green. A really bright green. In fact, you may want to consider it as a hair color."


"So then you soak your tires real good. You let them sit just like that there. Then you wet down the rest of your car. The way you were doing it was no good."

I only had two dollars and was scrubbing away at a few sticky spots with the foam brush.

"Now you can use the brush, and look here, you've got a minute more than when you started."

I thanked him and he drifted over to the vacuum hoses where he started demonstrating the massive suction power of the unit to a tightly-pantsed couple in their early twenties. The girl chewed her gum and did her best to look bored. The boy(scary wisp mustache!) seemed completely emasculated by this stranger telling him how to best suck up any unwanted particles from the floor of his monster truck.

I sprayed on.

My wheels were still grubby and I didn't spend enough time scraping the multiple layers of grime off the roof of my car to make a bit of difference. And it turns out that all the nasty stuff I thought was on the outside of the windows was actually old dog slobber.

Next time, I'll wash my car in my driveway with a putty knife and a strong acetone solution. Maybe some sandpaper.

Monday, August 15, 2005

I walk into the house, arms around sacks of groceries, keys gripped in my teeth, bag sliding down my shoulder. I shuffle to the kitchen table and release the keys. They clatter off and hit the floor, trailing drool. Portly sniffs them nonchalantly from her sprawled out position in the middle of the floor, her cat disinterest fully engaged. She is not going to help me. She's just hoping I forget to close the door all the way so she can make her break for freedom. We keep telling her this is a bad idea, but like a teenager who knows it all, she thinks that the world outside is made of nothing but open cans of tuna and still-wet bathtubs for her to roll in and lick dry.

I look around for a human who might give me a hand with the numerous paper sacks full of discount edibles. He is standing in the bathroom, leaning over the sink.

"Hello?" I yell as I head back out the door for another load of bulk flour, sugar, and vanilla flavored granola. I hear him make a noise, but not one that sounds like enthusiasm.

I fumble with the bags as Portly tries to sneak past me.

"Ha! Not on my watch. Back varmint!" I lean into the door frame and weasel around her, a pouting mound of fur.

"Didn't you hear me? I'm home. With many bags. Can I get a hand?" I walk into the bathroom and recoil.

The place, to quote my sister, looks like a crime scene. There are bloody wads of toilet paper and cotton balls all over the sink. Chris is holding his hand and swabbing up blood as it swells out of a deep puncture wound in the meat of his palm. The sink has little splashes of gore in the bowl.

"Jeezus, what happened to you?" I say, and instinctively reach for his hand to assess the damage.

"Do we have any big band-aids? All I could find were these little ones."

"You mean like gauze and some medical tape? Sorry. Now, what happened?"

Trying to talk around me while I keep expressing my sincere belief that he should get stitches, I mean, GOD!- he told me that he had been carving away at a block print while holding it down, when he had suddenly relearned an important lesson about cutting away from himself.

I carried in the rest of the groceries by myself. Chris finally got the bleeding under control without the aid of stitches. Portly made another attempt to escape the torturous confines of our house but did not succeed.

But the main thing is that we all take a moment to really think about the object lesson: Always cut away from yourself, or your girlfriend will pressure you to go to the emergency room, where the wait will be unbearable and you will lose precious hours of your life, never to return again. Here ends the lesson for today.

Oh yeah, and get grocery bags with handles. Handles are the way to go.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The neighbor kid comes over every day to play with Chris, or actually, Chris’ PlayStation and Lego’s. He happens to be the kind of adult that children adore, simply because he’s got all the coolest toys. As I write this in my studio, he is propped up against my closet playing Tactics Ogre on his Game Boy, change spilling out of his pockets as he periodically adjusts his weight.

And so the children flock to the door, pressing their faces up against our front window, tapping the glass when Portly stares at them, all eight pounds of her stretched out on the chaise lounge.

I answer the door, and he looks right past me. At eight years old, he comes up to my ribcage, but he still doesn’t look at me, but rather past me, to see if Chris is lurking.

“Is Chris here?”

“It’s nice to see you too,” I say. “He’s in the gar…” I trail off because he has already shot past me, dirt ground into his knees, sidewalk chalk in puffs on his face, dusting the sticky spots where chocolate Laffy Taffy has been drooled and stuck.

Children have never been drawn to me, even though I often have the coolest stickers, the newest markers. I always have Rice Krispie bars. These things are all for me, though, not for sharing. Perhaps kids can sense that I’m not willing to part with, or even share, the smallest portion of my loot. I have my younger sister to thank for that, who staged raids on my Halloween candy and my lip gloss drawer for years before I got hip to her scene and bought a keyed lock for my bedroom door. My mom never learned, and continued to stock the kitchen drawer with Trident and Chapstick every week, asking aloud “Where does all this stuff go?”

My quest for equal division of property went so far as to involve a ritual for dividing a candy bar. One of us got to cut it in half, the other got to choose. It could take almost an hour.

I am, it is safe to say, not good at sharing my toys.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

High point from the trip to Bend, OR with my sister and boyfriend:

"I'll go if you go."

"So, are you going to get in or what?"

"I said I'll do it if you do it."

"Yeah, I hear you talking but I don't see you getting any closer to the water."

The four of us were standing in our underwear on the hot black rocks that jutted up from the river like crooked teeth from a deformed jawline.

The guys were in plaid boxer shorts, my sister in some flattering bikini panties and a sleek dark bra. I, on the other hand, was clad in a floppy gray tank top and a blue paisley thong that I wear only under light colored skirts. I hadn't realized that I would have to show anyone my underclothes. Obviously.

Chris had already jumped in and done a few strokes around the clear deep center, and then flopped onto a flat rock five feet from

My sister picked her way over the rocks and through the weeds to stand by me, stretching her arms over her head in an attempt to act casual. As she brought her hands down to her sides, a stray piece of wheat grass that had lodged in her armpit poked out like a struggling locust. I leaned into her and said, "Stand still, I'm just going to pick off this little-"

Too late. She looked down and saw what she thought was an enormous bug wriggling into her armpit and screamed like a banshee. A full-body wriggle followed. Please remember that we are both in our underwear.

The guys were laughing, enjoying a moment of simpatico.

"I'm afraid to get in, because I have to pee, and I'm thinking that my bladder might just let go."

"So? Just as long as you're down stream from us, we don't care, right?"

The group murmured its consent.

I jumped in.

The water was so cold that it knocked the wind out of my lungs with one swat. I never had one of those life-threatening fevers when I was a child, but imagined that getting plunged into a tub of ice cubes would feel about the same.

I started laughing, my teeth chattering, and dog paddled towards Chris, who was still drying of on the flat rock.

I flung myself up and partially onto his perch, and he backed away from me, seeing how slippery the volcanic surface was when it was wet and not wanting to lose his place by sliding into the frosty river.

"Help me up! Argh! Help me up!" I flailed and attempted to find purchase, but, alas, there was none to be had. The rock was much steeper than it had looked from the shore.

My body was in survival mode, and my pasty white buns flexed and jiggled as I humped my way up out of the water, looking like an albino seal in a wet t-shirt and tiny thong panties.

My sister was doubled over with laughter, until she finally jumped in, letting out a scream before her sandaled feet even hit the water.

As we all dried out and put our remaining dry clothes on for the rigorous hike back up the ravine to Carl's house, Kristi wrung out her panties and gave me a wry look.

"That's right. I just thought I'd soak my panties and take them for a walk. You know me."

I decided to strip down to nothing as well, and announced, "Nobody look!" just as I was peeling down to my skin, which of course made everyone swing around to see what I didn't want them to look at.

And so we arrive at the high point: Me, standing almost naked in front of my friends, tiny blue thong dripping into my shoes, nipples stiff enough to cut glass, my goose-bumped rump shaking in the 90 degree high desert sun.

"This is just like some God-awful porno," Kristi said.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Laura, Luci, and I got the the park blocks for lunch and were just getting settled in, unwrapping our sandwiches, when out from behind a tree swung a large, swarthy man in sweaty clothing, brandishing a gun.

"Where's my cheesecake?" he asked gruffly.

We stared at him, not saying anything. I held my breath, thinking that my salami sandwich would make a pretty lame shield.

Then I realized that his gun was, in fact, a water gun.

"Where's my CHEESECAKE?" he asked again, and one of us said, "I don't know."

"No cheesecake?" he said, a bit softer this time, the hint of a deranged smile touching his lips.

"Maybe it's down there," I said, pointing down the block.

He laughed and pointed his gun at the ground and walked away.

"Not funny," I muttered, and turned my attention to my lunch.

We ate quickly and went down the street to a hip clothing store that we had been told was having a 50% off everything-in-the-store sale. We grazed the first racks by the door, skimmed the shoes, and made our way into the main area.

"Is there anything specific you guys needed help finding?" a dredlocked woman called over a counter filled with skull-emblazoned panties.

"No, we're just...killing time before going back to work," I shrugged and started looking at a display of black t-shirts.

She nodded and wandered away.

I pointed out some baby clothes with bright orange flames to Laura, and stared hard at the many different colors of tights on the wall, trying to will a plain black pair of fishnets to jump out at me. I picked up a shirt with a weird looking bunny on it and shook it out to see if their idea of small matched mine, and suddenly the dredlocked woman was back.

"Look, if you guys really are just 'killing time' and not actually shopping, I have a lot of work to do, so..." She let her statement hang in the air.

I thought she might be trying to make some sort of weird joke so I refolded the shirt, smiled and said, "Excuse me?"

"It's just that I'm getting kicked out of here in two days, I'm losing my business, so if you aren't actually shopping, then I'd appreciate it if you didn't mess anything up. I just see that you're unfolding those clothes and I really have a lot of stuff to do."

Okay, now I was really confused.

"We're actually shopping."

"Well, that's not what you told me before."

"No, but I meant that we had been told about this sale, and so we came down here to look, but not with anything in mind..." I frowned and limply held out the shirt to her. "But I've been refolding everything I've looked at."

"It's just that I'm getting kicked out in two days and I have a lot of work to do, and I'm not trying to be super bitchy or anything but I guess I kind of am..."

"That's completely understandable," I said and just sort of nodded.

I had been prepared to buy a shirt or two. I think we all had been. It probably wouldn't have solved any of this lady's problems, but hey, every little bit counts, right? But now I was being talked to like I was an obnoxious teenager ripping apart a store and leaving torn clothes and spilled food in my wake, and that feeling wasn't conducive to putting me in a purchasing mood.

"We really are shopping," I lamely said, and sort of wandered away.

After a few awkward moments trying to gather everyone together without making too big of a scene, we went outside to regroup and talk about getting shakes.

As she exited, Laura lobbed "I hope you have a better afternoon," to the woman.

"I'm sorry, it's just that, I'm losing my business and I just really appreciate it and, you know..."

"I'm no good at being rude," Laura said as we angled for the coffee shop. "She just totally misinterpreted my comment. She was all nice." She rolled her eyes.

The guy at the coffee shop, well known for his niceness and cheery attitude, snapped at Laura to make a decision about the type of ice cream she wanted in her peanut butter shake.

"Is chocolate or vanilla better?" she asked.

"Well, you HAVE to decide," he snapped with his back turned.

We just barely made it back to the library in time to take over the call desks.

The assaults on our little group were starting to make our stomachs turn.

I sat down, thinking I was glad to be on the other side of the counter, and that I would make it my personal goal to be extra nice for the rest of the day to make up for all the wackos out there today. Within two minutes, and ancient man approached the counter and asked for help with copying a poem. I did so, happily, and returned his materials to him. He asked for a pair of scissors.

Thinking that he wanted to cut the page in half and reassemble the contents (a popular activity) I handed them over.

He said thank you, and then proceeded to CUT HIS EAR HAIR ON MY DESK!

Before I could put my astonished thoughts together to say anything, he laughed a toothless laugh and handed them sheepishly back.

"Gotta keep your eye on that stuff; it'll take over if you let it."

"Nicely said," was all I could think of to say, and he kept laughing and waved heartily as he limped away.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

List of Activities From Saturday:

1) Tried to eat my first BLT since getting my lip pierced. Not recommended again for at least a week. Or two.

2) Saw angry pug dogs in partially demolished house. Wanted to bundle them up and take them with me, but figured that ultimately, the gruff looking man in the yard of said house would probably not go for that at all.

3) Thought my sister's real hair was a wig.

4) Had an Orange Julius at the mall. Boy, are they good. Got freeze brain. Didn't care.

5) Got sprayed by car washing hose while Kristi scraped something off her car with her fingernail and lost control of the gun. Also there was a leak in the gun that kept soaking her shirt with freezing cold water, just like in all those pornos.

6) Got charged twice for bag of organic apples. Didn't say anything because, I figure, that little fruit stand needs all the cash inflow it can get.

7) Was bit by a duck in a misguided attempt to pat it on it's puffy head. Surprised expression followed, and Kristi said, "Well, what did you THINK was going to happen?"

8) Called mom jointly while drinking wine and eating egg salad at my house. Kristi heats up my cell phone like it's been in the microwave just by clutching it in her hot little hand. Mom reports that grandpa said something incredibly inappropriate(don't ask; not worth it) about her new kitchen wall color and she had to hang up on him. I suggested a swift kick next time. Suggestion noted, but declined.

9) Kristi wrote down her name next to the words she was able to guess on my crossword puzzle. "GEM" and "SLEEVE" in case you were dying to know.

10) Made quiche. Took two hours to bake it because I insist on packing twice as much stuff in my quiche as the recipe calls for.

11) Used dictionary to help cheat on last couple crossword clues I just couldn't get. Didn't help.

12) Fell asleep listening to an episode of the X-Files which featured some pants-crappingly scary zombies mixed with the sound of Chris disassembling our Lego creations and tossing the individual pieces into the Lego Bucket.
The Day of the Bodily Functions of Others (and one of my own, actually):

I was shelving some mysteries, over in the alcove, perpendicular to the non-fiction videos. I was content, even sort of whistling, because that area is generally pretty quiet and the old ladies who cruise the serial mysteries always ooh and ahh over my purple hair. I bent over just as a rather pasty gentleman came around the corner. I recognized him from 10 minutes before, when he leaned rather ominously over me and said:

"Action. I want ACTION."

"Excuse me?" I replied, attempting to keep my panic in check.

"Videos. Action videos."

"Oh, certainly, let me show you where they are." Thank god. But still, even in a public place with security officers trolling the waters, women never like to be hovered over by random men, especially while they are in a submissive position.

So here he was, index finger out, pointing at each scarred video case and muttering before moving on to the next one.

I've found it best to just work around people who talk to themselves. I never intervene unsolicited. So I kept shelving the 'Mc' stack of books on the bottom shelf and acted like he wasn't freaking me out.

He bent over to read the navel level shelf, and as he did so, his butt waggled into position not 15 inches from my face. Before I could straighten up and move, liking my personal space unmarred by even my closest friends, the guy let out a long chain-saw fart, that, through my germ-phobic tinted glasses, blasted me on the left side of my face, tainting the air in my mouth, nostrils, ear, and hair.

Gathering up my pile of unshelved books and holding my breath, I rushed to the relative safety of my book truck. I decided to hit the staff area for a quick decontamination. I stopped briefly to flip a chair up that had been leaning at an angle against the reading table. Then I realized WHY the chair had been placed that way.

As I pulled back, I noticed that the seat was covered in a clearish liquid that had puddled in the center of the seat. Now my hand was not only farted upon, but possibly soaked in urine as well.

Not wanting to do a definitive sniff test to be sure, I locked myself in the nearest bathroom and scrubbed my skin with liquid soap until I was chapped.

An hour later, while I was flitting around the basement pulling books from the closed stacks, the tack that holds my lip ring together came loose and floated around in my mouth.

I panicked and hit the bathroom again, trying desperately to get the tiny grooves to fit together. Anyone who has tried to do this themselves will tell you that it's like trying to thread a needle in a haystack. I had to call upon another coworker to come over and basically perform oral surgery. She had her hands in my mouth for several minutes. Which was fine with me, but I'm sure the other people in the room were wondering what the hell we were doing.

When I started working at the library, I thought there would be a 'certain quiet dignity' to it. Yeah right.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Memorable patron interactions:

1) I was walking by the genealogy microfilm table, where I frequently see people in various states of coming unglued, unable to find their great-great-great grandfather's mother's maiden name on some passenger ship manifest or perhaps they are looking to prove that they did indeed divorce that bastard in 1988 but for some reason there seems to be no record of it and now that they think about it, their lawyer did seem a little confused and sketchy and now that they are looking at the divorce index and their name isn't on it they're getting ready to raise some holy hell, by God, all stuff of that nature, when I noticed that the tiny white-haired woman patiently scrolling through some list or another shot both her crinkly fists in the air and shouted, "Yes! There's his name!" This never happens, and if it did, I certainly never get to see the research equivalent of a 'money shot.' It was great.

2) A woman in the art section came up to me and admired my leg tattoos(full Joan of Arc style pyre around each ankle about half way up to my knee, FYI) and said she was thinking about getting her legs covered in some sort of pattern as well because her legs were so white and hairy. Then she showed me her leg, which wasn't quite as pasty as mine, but I saw her point. Then I said if she got tattoos on her legs she'd never have to wear nylons again. To which she replied, "Honey, even the promise of George Clooney sex couldn't get me into nylons anymore."


Thursday, June 30, 2005

My friend Annabelle is really short. So short she's almost a Little Person. But not quite. She's one inch taller than the cut off of four feet ten inches. Which is lame, because I'd love to go to a Little Person convention with her if she was a member. Not the point here. What is the point: she told me that she just got herself a "midget bike." Her words, NOT mine. Evidently they aren't making the specific bike that she was looking for, so she got one used online and while she is waiting for the last part to arrive in the mail she is fondling it in her living room dreaming of flying over the hills through Gresham on her "midget bike." Oh, do I love her!

She also told me that she hasn't been driving so much after 'the Christmas tree incident.' She was driving down 205 behind a truck with an unsecured dried-up holiday remnant in the back. She watched it warily as it sort of flopped around and then suddenly FWISH! It flew out of the truck and spiraled towards her car like a gigantic football. She swerved in time to keep from totaling her car, although it did shear off her side-view mirror, and the car behind her hit it head on. She followed the guy long enough to write down his plate information and contacted the DMV, who did some awesome investigating and tracked him down through his insurance company. He fessed up about it right away, saying he was indeed surprised when he arrived at work that morning and the tree was missing from his truck.

My tough little nut to crack, ratting out inadvertent tree-dumpers to the proper authorities.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Kristi and I check out different dog behinds at the annual Doggie Dash on the waterfront as Shadow peers intently into the camera. Spooky.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Confessions from a younger age(a partial list):

I spent entire bathtimes trying to pee into empty tic-tac containers. Keep in mind that this was when I was four. And I never really succeeded. I tried to get whatever other little kid was in there with me to help, but they never would.

I hid boogers in the couch. And on the dog.

After the babysitter put us to bed and my sister passed out into the hot, flushed way she would sleep, I would sneak back into the living room doorway and watch the scary movies that my teenage guardians were into. Not that there was anything too explicit. We only had 4 channels.

I cried furiously for ten minutes when I found out that one of our neighborhood babysitters had been killed in a car accident, but less than half an hour later I was splashing around in the swimming pool with my sister, tragedy forgotten.

I tried to thaw out a frozen squirrel by putting it on the furnace in my dad's workshop and just ended up liquefying it.

I kept a dead salamander in a mason jar in an old chicken coop that we played in. When I went to check on it the next week, it was a writhing mass of maggots. I tossed the whole thing behind the building and prayed I would never see it again.

My sister and I had two rabbits and forgot to feed them for several weeks. They died, of course. My mother was furious, but looking back, I think we might have been too young for that sort of responsibility.

I heard that my obnoxious little cousin had jumped into a grave that my dad was digging and I was disappointed when I learned that they had managed to get him out.

Once I picked over 100 ticks off myself after playing in the woods and tossed them all in the toilet.

I thought it was gross that my sister would pick the engorged ticks off the dog and then crush them with stones or put them in a jar and light them on fire, but I had no problem smashing spiders into the carpet.

I swallowed a glittery yellow worm meant for tackle. In my defense, it looked just like a gummi worm.

I drank half a glass of Era because I thought it was flat 7-Up. There's really no defense for that.

I hoarded my Christmas, Easter, and Birthday candy. I could have given it to my little sister, who was always desperate for sugar, but I preferred to have it around so I could sort it into piles. I never wanted to eat it. Just arrange it. Hello, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder! So Kristi would eventually sniff it out like a truffle pig and eat it over time. I never noticed because I was getting more candy all the time.

It was I, Angela, who drank that entire box of red wine my mother had in the refrigerator. It took me three weeks, and it really wasn't worth it.

I hated my kindergarten teacher because when I tried to open my milk from the wrong side and then couldn't remedy the situation and asked for her help, she stood me up in front of the class and called me stupid and asked the rest of the kids if they wanted to be stupid like me. When everyone shook their heads no, she screamed, "Then look for the arrow before you open your milk!"

The son of a family friend tried to entice me into a game of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours," and I hid under a beanbag until he left.

I encouraged my younger and not-so-bright relatives to pitch themselves through the railing of a story of stairs and land in the aforementioned beanbag until their mother found out and freaked, saying it might give them brain damage.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

So I'm pushing Cheerios around on a cookie sheet, trying to get them all equally coated in melted butter and pressed garlic, working around the fact that I've made twice as many as will fit, and that my fantastically expensive wool oven mitt has a dime-sized hole in it, so I am blistering my index finger.

This is when the phone rings. I run over to the table to see who it is, scattering cereal in my wake. It's my sister, Kristi, and she's usually got something juicy for me, so I drop the hot tray and hit the flash button.

"Hello, Lady!" I watch as Little Portly executes some cat choreography across the tile floor, batting buttery Cheerios into the depths under the fridge. Her fuzzy front legs disappear as she tries to dig them out.

"Angela. I've lost my keys and I'm freaking out. Can you work with that?"

"Oh, I can work with anything. Where are you? Locked out of your apartment?"

"No. I let myself in earlier this evening and when I tried to leave to go to work I couldn't find them anywhere. Jackson already left for work so I can't leave the house. I can't lock the door! I've been looking for two hours!"

Kristi and her boyfriend live right downtown in a semi-underground condo the size of my front hall closet. There weren't too many places for keys to get lost in under 700 square feet.

"Did you check your pockets? That's where mine always turn up. Remember watching mom run around the house looking for her glasses when they were on top of her head the whole time? Those were good times." I chuckle and sigh, thinking about mom, hind end in the air, digging in the couch cushions and coming up with stale popcorn, dog hairballs, and crusty bits of things pulled from our noses.

"Angela. I'm being totally serious here. I'm really losing my marbles. Because if they aren't here in the house, that means I left them dangling in the door and someone took them. And if someone took them, that means they could steal my car or come back here later tonight and loot the place while I huddle in the shower with only a rolled up yoga matt to use as a weapon."

"Wow, okay. Do you want me to come over and help you look?" I ask jokingly.

"Could you?"


"I really just need some help here."

"Okay, I'll tell you what. I'm about five minutes from finishing up a batch of hot, buttered Cheerios. I'll bring you a bag and be over in like, twenty minutes."


So now I'm back to juggling the cereal into a Ziplock while the cat claws at my legs, trying to orchestrate a Cheerio catastrophe that would end in her being showered with hot crunchy oats, hundreds of little edible pieces for her to chase under the furniture.

I pick her up and toss her in the bedroom with Chris, who is watching "Children of Paradise," a long and depressing French movie.

"I'm, uh, going to help Kristi look for her keys. She can't leave the house until she finds them."

"Wait, so she's not locked out? She's locked in?"

"Pretty much. I'll call you when we see some resolution."

"Have a good time."

I leave the house armed with garlicy snacks and race downtown, making the trip in a record 18 minutes.

Kristi opens the door before I have a chance to knock and gives me a look that could melt glass.

"Two hours of my life! I'll never get them back!"

"It's okay, they have to be here somewhere. Your house isn't that big. I'll start from the beginning, but how about you take a break and just tell me where you've looked and what your strategy is." I drop my stuff and throw her the bag of Cheerios, which she breaks open and starts pouring in her mouth.

I pick up her bike bag by the door and start taking stuff out of it.

"I've emptied that bag twice. And all the other bags by the door. I've looked in all the shoes, behind the furniture, and in that bag of empty beer bottles. I looked in the refrigerator crisper drawers, because, you know, I was in there making myself a sandwich. I checked in the dishwasher. We don't even use the dishwasher. I looked in the toilet. The bathroom drawers. The kitchen cupboards. Under the couch. In the plants. The catbox. Under the stairs. I dug through the garbage. The GARBAGE!"

"Did you call Jackson and tell him to check his bag, just in case they got swept in there as he was leaving?" I ask while dismantling a pyramid of shoes.

"Yes. He told me he looked and that he didn't have them."

"Hmm. I guess that means that, unless your cat ate them or they warped to another dimension, that perhaps they were left dangling in the door."

"But I never do that. I always toss them on the fireplace."

We spent the next hour going over the same ground she had covered twice herself. We even rechecked the toilet.

"I have to pee."

"Yeah, but what if my keys are just out of sight in the pipe and you flush it and then they disappear forever?"

I held it.

We had just finished taking all the recycling out of the paper bags and sorting it into piles; 'not keys' 'and keys,' with 'not keys' winning 53 pieces to 0, when I decided to run out to my car and get my flashlight.

When I came back in, Kristi was on the phone with Jackson, pleading with him to check his bag again. I rechecked under the stairs and the major appliances, finding lots of cat hair I hadn't previously seen, but no keys.

Then Jackson called back.

" WHAT?...YOU DID?...They were in YOUR BAG THE WHOLE TIME? Do you have ANY IDEA what I've been doing for the last THREE HOURS?...Angie had to come over and help me look! I though I was losing my mind and you'd have to commit me! Or at the very least you'd have to have everything re-keyed. I can't talk to you right now."

I looked at her. She threw her hands up in the air.

"What happened? Didn't he look before?"

"All indications are that he didn't. But he said they were really busy at the ICU tonight. Two people died in the same room at the same time. But still. What about my keys? He could have just looked."

We finished the garlic Cheerios and called it a night. And Kristi slept well, knowing that her Toyota would not be stolen in the night with her own key.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Let's just talk for a minute about why those fire alarms scared me to the point of catatonia:

The first conditioning came from when I was but a wee little scamp, toddling around my father's workshop in the frigid cold of a Minnesota winter. I could really tear around, and within moments had lapped the sawdust filled room so many times my dad said that his head was spinning.

He picked me up and put me in the nest of blankets he had in a corner for our Shepard mutt, Ginger. She was excited to snuggle up to another warm living thing and wrapped her front paws around me and licked my face with great enthusiasm.

Thinking he could now get some work done, a common misconception among all new parents, his eyes left me and the dog and focused on some project or another.

I bolted up from the cozy slurp-fest and ran towards the space heater, which was center stage behind the band saw. It was one of those heaters they would never sell today. Wildly unsafe and a fire/explosion waiting to happen, it was cylindrical, metal, glowing red on the end, with a powerful fan blasting dry super-heated air into the shop.

It was beautiful, the only warm thing in the room. The furnace was having trouble keeping up with the wind chill from outside, and my dad kept the ancient space heater around for taking the edge off. Of course I went straight for it. The hot side was the color of molten lava, and its fan was my siren cry. I reached out and placed my tiny finger on the orange cone of heat. I watched as my fingertip melted onto the surface. Then the pain registered.

All hell broke loose.

I opened my mouth and screamed in slow motion. The dog jumped straight up out of her grungy little blanket snarl and bayed. My father's eyes got enormous and the blood drained from his face as he knocked over the saw table to get to me.

I don't really remember anything after that. It's safe to say that my mother was consulted, the dog was shut in the bathroom, and sedatives were administered. The hospital was no doubt called, and ice cubes wrapped in frayed brown towels were probably my best friends. Blame was assigned and anger was deflected for the first in a long series of dramas my parents starred in, called "Oh yeah, well whose fault do you think THAT is?"

And my little fingerprint is still grilled onto the end cone of that space heater, a shadow burned into the wall of my childhood, and a reminder for my father that little kids should really just be chained down.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I was thinking about all the times I have lost control. I started out with your average temper tantrums: best friend making out with my boyfriend, little sister borrowing my favorite shirt without asking me, patrons at work being obnoxious, the normal gambit of stuff that upsets people.

Then I started branching out with my interpretation of 'losing control.'

I now include it all:
-When I was three, my mom liked to dress me in these bell-shaped dresses and wiggle me into fuzzy textured tights. One day, while gurgling in the back seat of her Galaxy 500 while she was getting ready to unstrap me from my car seat harness thing, I lost control of my easily irritated bowels and shit in my fuzzy tights. I don't remember a whole lot of the scene, because, you know, I was three, but my mom has said that it was like watching a pureed banana being squeezed through a sock. Which is probably close to what it was. I really loved bananas. But so then she had to deal with me, screaming and hating being in what amounted to a shit wet suit, feeling the stinky liquid turd spreading along my tights and dripping into my shoes. She yanked me out of the car and held me dangling over a trash can, peeled off my tights and tossed them, then squeegeed most of the mess off of my legs with some dusty Dairy Queen napkins from the glove compartment. Good times.

-When the fire alarm went off in kindergarten, and I, in my special, home-made mouse Halloween costume, panicked and climbed up on one of those little chairs and shook my fists at my sides and screamed and punched anyone who tried to pick me up and carry me outside.

-Again, when the fire alarm was pulled by some mischievous kid at the YMCA while I was immersed in learning the American crawl, I shot up out of the water and bawled all the way to the locker room, where I waited for my mother to come upstairs and take me away from the screeching noise. Luckily, she had been reading Good Housekeeping in the pool observation room, and saw the whole thing: me biting the wrist of my instructor when he tried to lift me off the deck and put me back in the water, me running at full speed across the slippery tile and slamming my tiny saggy-swimsuited body into the locker room door, me disappearing into the stairwell with my mouth open in a terrified scream that no one could hear over the alarm.

I'm sure she was pissed about losing the only 45 minutes that she had to herself all week, and while she was dressing me, she yanked my clothes on a bit harder than usual, and left my soggy braid INSIDE my shirt, which left a huge wet snail trail that leaked into my buttcrack, which I totally HATED her for, and she kept sighing, and said, "For Christ's sake, by the time we get you dressed, they'll have shut off the alarm and the $2.75 I spent on this lesson is as good as flushed down the toilet."

So many more stories, so little time left to type them. More later, I promise.
Things that are in dispute:

1. Does Little Portly have enough chemical coating to eliminate the POW fleas that I keep pulling off of her every day?

2. Did I, in fact, pose for the picture in which I am seen at the Newport Aquarium gift shop wearing a hat shaped like an enormous bat and a dippy, open-mouthed expression on my face, or was it taken in a candid camera sort of way?

3. Did I "flee the room in tears" at work after telling Hapgood that I don't "need his crap" in response to his acidic comments including, but not limited to, a criticism of my proclivity for following procedure when faced with a software problem?

4. Did Eddy appear to be having his genitals twisted by our yoga instructor this morning during a demonstration of 'partner supported down dog,' or was it just me?

5. Do men avoid going to the doctor on purpose, or do they really 'just keep forgetting' to make the appointment?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Whenever I go in to see a doctor about my asthmatic lungs, they have a standard list of questions they ask:

Q: Do you smoke?

A: Are you kidding? Just walking into a bar where other people are smoking is like my own personal Fear Factor. I have to carry an inhaler with me everywhere I go. If there isn't one within reach, I panic. This is not for show. If my lungs are irritated by the slightest thing, my bronchial tubes swell up like pufferfish.

Q: I see. Do you have any allergies?

A: Shouldn't you have that information? I mean, you're looking at my record right there in front of you.

Q: It just says 'amoxicillin' here. I was thinking more along the lines of seasonal allergies.

A: See, that's the thing. I feel crappy when the pollen count is high and you can SEE the stuff floating around in the air, but the guy I saw in the emergency room last night said that it wasn't necessary to do any specific allergy tests because, well, I'm not sure why.

Q: So, just the average pollen and dust stuff that affects everyone?

A: If I had to commit to an answer here, I guess I'd say yes, but obviously it's more than 'average' since most people with 'average' allergies don't have to make 3am urgent care visits.

And we do this thing where they ask me questions that they should already know the answers to, as this happens once or twice a year, and I become this bitchy patient that I don't even recognize because no one will just GIVE ME THE STUPID CORTIZONE SHOT ALREADY SO I CAN BREATHE!

More on this later.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Chris didn't sleep last night.

This morning waiting for the bus, he and I looked like zombies. Not cool half-rotten zombies, but recently dead, waiting to kill our first victim and eat their brains type of zombie. Instead we got coffee at Stumptown and waited for the 4 on Division.

"This one time when I dropped acid...I was living with my dad and stepmom in the mountains at the time, anyway: we went camping. When I came back the next day, Ingrid handed me a package of socks and I broke down sobbing."

I laughed and nearly snorted up half of my latte.

"Why did you cry over the socks?"

"I don't know. It was one of those post-LSD moments where everything is ripe with complex double meanings. Like, 'Here, you asshole, you can't take care of yourself so I bought you some socks,' type of thing. You know?"

We boarded the bus and sat down near the back. There was no unpleasant smell that usually accompanies the 14 or the 15. We had chosen wisely.

When Chris blinked, took a sip from his coffee, turned his head, it was all slow motion. He would make a great zombie. All he needed was the drooling and maybe a little moaning.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

We are relatively flea free. Portly told me just this morning. I asked, she responded. The only talking cat in the world today. Sure, she sounds suspiciously like me on helium, but based on her body language, I'm fairly certain I'm interpreting correctly.

Flea free.

The greatest phrase in the English language.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

After Portly's second flea dip and subsequent re-medicating to the gills to kill the little plauge-and-tapeworm-carrying fuckers that are eating her alive, she disappeared into the shadowy recesses of the closet to lick herself dry.

"I hope she's not able to lick the spot with the goopy insecticide."

"She's probably fine."

I went back to reading a horrible novel about a woman's sado-masochistic love affair with a bald-headed asshole who wants to "help" her by recreating the scene in which her sister was brutally murdered. It was all so predictable; his knowledge of the event that he couldn't possibly know, the huge red arrows all pointing to him as the killer, blah blah, ad nauseum. And yet I couldn't stop myself from reading. Would she continue to let him blacken her eyes and ruin her career as an up-and-coming artist? Or would she come to terms with her sister's death and quit drinking herself into a stupor at 7am and ditch the cocksucker and make up with her family? I had to know.

But I was hearing a noise that was out of place. It sounded like someone digging a hole in the sand. I put my book down and listened. It was indeed someone digging in the sand. Portly in her sandbox in the closet. Nothing to be concerned about there. Except that the reason the noise piqued my curiosity was because it had been occurring off and on for a good five minutes. I listened for another minute and then the scratching ended and I thought "Sounded like she was spraying sand all over the hallway. I guess I'll be sweeping that up later."

Then Portly bounded up onto the couch and stuck her face in my book.

"Ugh! Get off! You were just in your bathroom!"

She leapt onto the coffee table and shook her back paws.

Then I noticed it: A large turdlet dangling, like a dingle ball from a bad sombrero. It was the size of a Whopper, with similar coloring.

"Oh Jesus! Chris, the cat has a dingleberry! Get in here and help me get it! Grab her, before she sits down, quick!"

And thus, Operation Extricate Turdlet was executed.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Little Portly has fleas.

My sister and I peeled up all the blankets, towels, couch covers, pillows, sleeping bags, dirty clothes, and other assorted fabrics and piled them on the floor. When we removed the chenille throw from portal's favorite chair by the window, my sister recoiled and made a sound like a startled Holstein.

"What? What is it? Oh wow, there certainly is a lot of blanket fluff on this chair," I said, moving in for a closer look.

"Um, that's not fluff. Notice how it's all wriggling."

That's right. On my beloved chaise lounge there was a solid covering of flea poop and larvae, all waiting for the cat to hop back up on the chair so the buffet could begin.

"Gack! Rackin' frack! Ugh!" Really, mere words cannot convey my disgust. But know that it was(and is) absolute.

I tape rolled the chair. I sprayed the chair with harsh chemicals. I vacuumed the chair. Kristi started the bathwater and loaded up with the flea dip and a pile of rags. I started what would end up being over ten loads of laundry. We dipped Portly. She was not pleased.

"Hold her down, she's making a break for it!" Kristi commanded, a seasoned veteran of flea proceedings.

"She's too slippery, and she just scratched me. Look out, she's going to bite down on your arm!"

"I have to get under her armpits, scrub hard. Use more of that soap. Here, gimme. Pick off those fleas that ran for cover on her face." Like a drill sergeant Kristi let me know what was expected of me. Portly let out pathetic mewling noises and stared up at me with such an intense sense of betrayal that I felt like tearing up.

We rinsed her off and dried her as much as she would let us, and then locked her in the garage, which was okay with her, as she didn't want to be within grabbing distance. I rotated laundry. I vacuumed. I sprayed the furniture. I tape rolled every surface. I flea fogged the house. I did more laundry. Chris vacuumed the house a second time.

"This sucks."


After Portly was dry, we flea combed her every hour, pulling off several bugs in each sitting. We kept a jar of soapy water for the comb, with a roll of paper towels and the lint tape roller on the table. We applied a tube of Advantage to the back of her neck. I was maniacal about the combing, taping every surface that she sat on, checking for flea poop, keeping her locked out of the bedroom.

"Have you combed the cat lately?" I asked Chris, as he made himself some ramen.


"Why not?" I said, defensive about my procedures.

"I just don't think it will do any good."

"Well I think it's better than doing nothing," my hackles were raised, I was going to fight this infestation into extinction if it killed me.

"Maybe so. Here, give her to me."

So Chris combed her while I took a flashlight to the couch and scanned for more forensic evidence, like some sort of rookie cop, wanting to prove myself.

But the fleas don't care.

Die, fleas, die!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

"Hey Chris."


"The sink is still leaking."


I was flipped upside down under the kitchen sink in our newly purchased house, shining a tiny Mag-lite on the plastic piping. A small but persistent flow of water dripped from the elbow joint onto the warped cupboard floor.

The sellers had signed off on a legal document that stated the plumbing in the kitchen no longer leaked, but clearly, just because the law said that it was so, didn't make it so.

It's the week before we move in, and we are both a bit anxious about the change. We also want to make sure that everything works. Which it doesn't. Does it ever?

My sister and I went to Home Depot the next day and passed an aisle with a sign: Sink Repair. I ducked down it, thinking, well, maybe someone would be able to give me an idea about what to do.

A man who was almost completely spherical, wearing Home Depot's signature orange apron sidled up to us. He looked like a piece of tropical fruit. I was holding a kitchen sink basket kit in my hands.

"Hey! I was wondering if you could tell me if these things are easy to replace?"

"Oh, yeah. Just pop out the old one and put the new one in with like, a pinky's worth of plumber's putty around the underside." He demonstrated by holding up a pinky the size of a sausage link.

"Do we need any special tools?" Kristi asked, ever thinking logistically, god-bless her heart.

The man who could have been an orange shrugged a little and pointed to a wall of wrenches.

"You might need something to loosen the old one."

"Well," I began. "The old one isn't really 'old,' it's just not put in there right. Or maybe there's a piece missing. That's why we thought it would be easier to replace it."

"Oh, then yeah, you'll probably be fine."

He handed us a mini-tub of putty and sent us on our way.

When we got back to the house, the sink sneered at us in an anthropomorphic appliance way that to me, signified war.

I dropped a pile of fresh rags under the sink and stuffed myself back in the little opening.

"How do you pop this thing out?" I asked, digging at it with a screwdriver.

"Give me that, moron." Kristi took my place and unscrewed the biggest ring with our hefty new pipe wrench. I grabbed it from her and swung it around, slapped it into my palm.

"Colonel Mustard, in the dining room, with the pipe wrench." I muttered, and thought about how I had never held such a substantial piece of metal before with the capacity to do such damage. Holy crap that thing was heavy.

"Hey! He didn't even use any putty in here! And he left a cardboard ring on top of the rubber seal!" I found that all out the hard way as little soaking globs of caulked cardboard came dripping down my sleeves. I felt pretty tough. I knew what I was talking about here.

We replaced the main drain basket and reconnected the pipes. We turned on the water. No leaks. I checked with the flashlight, waiting for the tell tale beading to occur on the rim of the attachment. After a few minutes, I declared it officially cured.

"The other sink drain is probably the same deal, you know. We should take that one apart too." Kristi wiped her hands on a towel and grimaced at the smaller sink.

We took it apart and restructured it, then squished it into place. I hadn't used as much putty as I thought I might have over done it the first time, so when we turned on the faucet, water slipped in the gap and ran down the pipe.

"Houston, we have a problem."

"Good night!" I said. "I can't do this! I don't know what I'm doing. We don't know what we're doing. This sucks."

"It's okay, you know. We'll just take it apart again and start over. We're following the instructions on the box, and the orange guy told us the same thing. Here." She thrust the putty container into my hands. "Just use more of this."

Once more, we disassembled the drain and built it from scratch. This time I used a sausage link sized snake of putty, just like the orange's finger.

We turned on the faucet and watched the water for several minutes. I flopped down on the floor and shined the light into the darkness.

"Well?" Kristi asked.

"I think we have achieved our projected orbital trajectory!" I exclaimed, and we did a little victory dance in the pile of wet rags.

"Okay, let's not get too excited, we still have to shelf paper the cupboards."


Thanks, Kristi, for helping my first plumbing repair experience not totally suck.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The periodicals room is like a goddamned meat locker. This happens every year. Weather outside starts to become not so drab and depressing, and the air conditioning stomps the inside temp to like, 60. I can see outside into the offices across the street, and beams of sunlight are striking this lady wearing only unnatural fibers, and it's got to feel pretty good to be her right now, being baked in her Banlon shell by the May sun.

The only good thing about the temperature in here right now is this: the cooler it is, the less people smell. When it gets nice and toasty in here on a rainy winter day, this room is packed to capacity with an array of people and their many, many different ideas about what personal hygiene means to them. It's the same thing when you enter a slaughterhouse in the summer. You can actually see the smell. That's why you should only buy your sausage from a reputable dealer who does all the nasty stuff in a cool room.

The other day while Chris and I were slowly navigating through a crowded neighborhood in northwest, we drove past a pigeon fluttering all over itself in the gutter, wing at a painful angle, eyes bugged out.

"Oh!" I said and brought a horrified hand to my mouth. "What do we do?" I looked to Chris for an answer. I turned the corner and swung into a parking space.

"We can't really do anything."

"We have to do something."

"Like what? We could take it home and nurse it back to health. Keep Little Portly from killing it."

"No, I mean, we have to do something."

"What, like snap it's neck?"

I looked around in the car for anything I could use as a weapon. I had an empty Dr. Pepper can, a pile of napkins, a few cracked CD cases, and a fingernail clipper shaped like a ladybug.

"Christ, I didn't mean it. Are you going to get out of the car and kill it?"

Here's the thing: if I would have had my snow shovel in my car, we wouldn't even have had that conversation.

"You don't think I could kill an animal that was suffering?"

"No, I don't think you have it in you." He paused, then smacked his forehead. "Oh right. I forgot, you're a farm girl. Saw lots of animals mutilated and weird stuff."

Not really, but whatever. I just know that I would want some help reaching death if I had been that mangled bird in the gutter. I wouldn't have smacked it with a shovel to be cruel, and I wouldn't have enjoyed it. But I would have done it if it would have stopped the pain.

We drove away without doing anything at all. I thought about the pigeon as I tried to sleep that night. I imagined it poked at by kids with sticks, kicked by jerks, frightened at it's inability to leave the ground. Am I as bad as the kid with the stick? The asshole who dumps a beer over it's head?

I need to get a new snow shovel.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Little Portly, cat extraoridnaire, got kicked out of our bedroom early last night. She had been inserting her little furry body in the spaces between the blinds and then dangling there, causing all manner of disruption, leaping on our faces.

Chris tossed her out, shut the door, and gave her not a second thought.

This morning while on my way to the bathroom, I noticed that the crappy kitchen linoleum looked even more crappy than usual. I looked closer. There were black spots all over the place, smears on the bottom of our bedroom door, and a bottle of India ink rolling around on the floor.

Portly had somehow managed to unscrew the cap enough so that when she batted it around, it left ink trails behind her. Of course she must have tracked through it. How could she not?

Our apartment is being shown tomorrow to prospective new tenants, and last night before the inking, I told Chris it wouldn't take more than an hour or so to clean things and straighten up a little.


Little Portly.

Monday, May 02, 2005

More about the blind hanging fiasco:
On Sunday after work Chris and I schlepped the unopened blinds back to Cost Plus and then raced out to Jantzen Beach to check out some curtains that weren't expensive or dumb. But of course, you can't have both.

While I was freaking out with my pencil and list of windows to cover and adding up sums in my head that might as well have been millions of dollars, Chris did some social research and listened to a woman abuse a sales clerk in the same aisle.

"I drove all day to get here and now you don't have the curtains I need. Can I just take this display model? I drove hours and hours to get here."

I personally wondered why she didn't call first, if she knew what she needed, and clearly, she did.

"Well," the clerk shifted uncomfortably and tried to remain diplomatic. "No, but we can special order whatever you need and have it shipped right to your house."

"That's not the right answer," said the woman who had allegedly driven all day to come to a Portland suburb to buy curtains.

I didn't hear any of this escalating because I was too busy whirling in my own vortex of drama, reeling from the fact that I apparently didn't pay any attention in 5th grade math. I couldn't get the feet to come out in the correct number of inches. Why hadn't I written down the inches as well? They were right on the measuring tape next to each other. Why did I have to make everything so hard?

At ten minutes to close, we grabbed an armful of what we hoped weren't stupid tab panels and some of the cheaper rods and checked out.

"I can cut these in half and sort of pin the extra fabric together to make it work until we get new ones," I chattered happily to myself.

Chris just sighed.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Patriot Act investigation into Chris has been resolved.

A few weeks ago while dealing with the gathering of the dozens of documents to purchase our house, I asked Chris why his address on his ID didn't match our address, or the address of any of his apartments for the last eight years.

"Why should I update it? It's never been important to me before. I hate paperwork."

"Because when you keep your paperwork in order, then you don't ever have to go back and do it over with extra paperwork that happens when you don't keep it together," was my confusing reply.

But we signed all the papers on our house loan and chilled the champagne.

Then our mortgage broker called.

"Angela. We have a slight problem."

Chris' address matched an apartment he had lived in back in 1998. From then on, there was no paper trail leading them to where he is now. Which is with me, while I freak out.

He had to write a letter explaining why he had let his info lapse and provide a list of addresses and dates to satisfy an investigation that falls under the law of the Patriot Act. See, the lender didn't want to fund terrorism. Luckily, the letter sufficed.

"Shit, if I were a criminal of that caliber, I'd have all my paperwork in order all the time. Otherwise, they'd catch me, just like they caught you," I pontificated as we walked towards the bookstore.

"It's totally stupid. I'm just sloppy. I didn't know it would be a big deal. And you told me last week that it would be. Huh." Chris said.

I don't like to be right. At least not when I want to be wrong. Who am I kidding? I love to be right. But not when being right means trouble.

In other news, when we went to hang the blinds that we bought for the whole house, we discovered that they are pretty much see-through. Which defeats the purpose of having blinds in the first place.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Covert operation:
Chris took the futon apart and dragged it piece by lame piece into the living room. The pee-stained hay-filled mattress he roped together with packing tape, turning it into a lumpy worm.

I called my sister and told her to wear black and come over after dark. She said she had plans, but that she'd stop over when she was done.

Not knowing what to do with ourselves, we cleaned. I sprayed Oxy-Clean around the base of the toilet while the cat played 'jungle cat attacks the village' with my wrists. Why is the toilet such a magnet for pubic hair? Don't answer that. Maybe the question I really mean to ask is where is all this pubic hair coming from? No, I don't really want to know that either. But Jesus, it's almost like we have an invisible chemo patient living with us whose crotch hair is coming out in clumps.

(I just spoke to my friend Matt and he brought up the fact that when men dry off their legs, often times leg hair, which resembles our sexy friends, will cascade down on the floor. Mystery solved.)

(In case you're wondering why I'm not assigning any blame to myself here, it's because I keep my lower level in check.)

Anyway, Chris was busy airing out his room after staging a Raid party on it that morning. There was a colony of ants, complete with LARVAE, swarming under his briefcase computer, and action had to be taken. Not being able to handle infestations of any kind, I was glad that he didn't share any of this with me until after the battle had been won.

Kristi called me at 10:30 to let me know that it wasn't going to happen.

We did a quick re-con in the kitchen.

It was decided that we would go ahead with our plan, minus a wingman.

We loaded the futon parts into my station wagon and cruised around, scouting out the available open dumpsters. The one we had planned on was overlooked by someone's kitchen, and the parking lot lights were pretty bright. The second one was tiny and was flanked by people standing on their back porch. We drove around in circles.

Chris suggested we just drop the thing in a dark parking lot. But we couldn't bring ourselves to do it. It's one thing to break the law by putting our garbage where it doesn't belong, as long as it's where somebody's garbage should go, but to just dump a crappy piece of furniture in a random location? I'll admit it. I'm a pussy. We're both pussies.

Angry that our moldy problem wouldn't go away, I re-parked the car while Chris ripped the stupid thing out of the trunk. We stashed the mattress in the basement and stacked the frame up on the curb for someone to take. We hope. If no one takes it, we'll have to load it up again and figure something else out.

Anybody want a crappy, dismantled, pee-stained futon and frame? It's not our pee. I swear.

Monday, April 18, 2005

My father had a hernia operation in the early 80's, when I was still running around in a pink Garfield night shirt and my little sister had goose down for hair.

He got to spend a week or so at home afterwards, waiting for the bleeding around his stitches to stop and the general pain in his abdominal region to abate. On the weekend, he and my sister and I would sit in the living room in our pajamas (well, he didn't have any pajamas, and wore this blue, fuzzy robe of my mother's that was comically small for him, and dropped from his sizeable girth like a short curtain, giving him a particularly Muppety appearance, which made me want to hug him a lot, which he tried to suppress because of the pain) and watch James Bond movies on the video disc player and eat bacon and toast. During a nasty little scene in "The Man With The Golden Gun" where James' main lady friend gets shot at a Sumo wrestling tournament, dad abruptly sat up, said, "Holy motherfucking shit!" and then yelled for my mother. He had been resting his glass on his belly, as always, and he had punched through the incision like it was a page from a perforated notebook.

Blood soaked through my mother's Grover-like robe. My sister started crying. I, being a screamer, screamed. My mother arrived and helped my father to the bathroom, where many layers of gauze were applied and the doctor was called, who basically told them to stop the bleeding and to come in on Monday to see what could be done.

I was still screaming.

"Jesus Christ! Keep it down in there! It's just a little goddamned blood!" and then quieter, to my mother, "You'd think she was being ax murdered in there or something. For the love of God..." And then my mother's quiet mumbling, and then nothing.

I stopped screaming and focused all my attention on the dwarf butler on Scaramanga's private island. His voice was funny, and it made me and my sister laugh. She came over and put her head on my shoulder, and the two of us sat there until the credits rolled, and then we sang along with Lulu and collapsed into a smelly little goat pile.

My father emerged from the trailer's bathroom wrapped in a sheet, toga style, and put on "The Spy Who Loved Me."
I was with a guy for a long time who never went near his ass crack with a bar of soap. I know, I know, this sort of thing would be a deal breaker if it was readily apparent. But he also went to great lengths to keep me away from his backside in general. When I realized what was going on, it was too late. I confronted him in the bathroom.

"You seem to be neglecting your poop chute. I just watched you suds up everything except, you know, your butt. What's up with that?" I had been brushing my teeth and noting his procedure with mounting disgust.

"It gets clean! The soapy water runs down there. That's all it takes."

"I hate to break it to you, but that's not 'all it takes.' You need to make contact. Here, I'll hand you a washcloth."

"Get out of here."

And it was never spoken of again, although I was very aware, from then on, that I probably just wanted to avoid his butt and his dirty laundry forever.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Chris and I do our best impromptu communicating through issues in the middle of the night. His insomnia will often send his mind reeling in an ever-growing spiral outward from his original prickly thought. When he can no longer pretend that he will get to sleep if he just tries a little harder to relax, he'll turn to me and say:


Sometimes he will shake me a little. Mostly there is just the solid sound of my name in a normal conversational tone.

"What? What is it?" I usually am jarred from a deep sleep, pulled snorting and worried into consciousness. I generally panic, fear the worst. And who doesn't, at 3:30am?

"I was just thinking..."

From here we will have deep, meaningful, if somewhat groggy conversations about everything, from trouble with friends and exes, to the meaning of pets and how we feel about each other. Recently, the conversations in the dark of night have centered around our purchasing of a house in deep southeast Portland, and how and what we will be sacrificing to make this investment. This is a real griller, because it is a big deal, this joint purchase well above the dollar/committment level of the French press we bought together. And so it is discussed.

The other day, while I was napping in the afternoon and Chris was watching cartoons, I heard the tell-tale siren call.


I snorked and lifted my face from the drool puddle it had been resting in.

"Wha-huh? What's wrong?"

"I was just thinking that I am glad you're alive."

These rocky starts at conversation are not always emergency grade explosives. Sometimes they are just good, warm, and fuzzy.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Our father to my sister via phone:
"It's amazing! You can get anything down here. Do you like...giraffes? Because there's this store called Pier One where you can get any damn giraffe thing you want. Yeah, they import this shit from all over the world. You can walk around in there for hours and never see the same damn thing twice. Do you like books? Cause they have this place called 'Borders Books' and I tell ya, I've never seen so many goddamn books in my life. They've got a book for everything. They have these sale books, they're only like, two dollars. Yeah, I bought some art books from that sale table and I just ripped out some pictures and hung 'em up on my walls. You put 'em in a frame and you can't even tell."

I just thought you should know how Dad is adjusting in his third year of "big city livin'."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A little thought for Chris on this morning after a night of little sleep:
"He who angers you, conquers you."

And with that, I must say(in a hypocritical manner) that waiting for our loan broker to call is a particularly exotic torture. I'm trying hard to chill and just let the water roll downhill, but like an idiot, here I am struggling against the current, attempting to climb the Mount Everest of Patience while wearing only a tablecloth knotted under my chin.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Financing for the house is becoming painful to wait for! I'm not flipping out though. Okay, I'm flipping out. I can hardly type. Oh, the waiting!

I have virtually no patience for this as I need to use it on ridiculous conversations such as this:

"Hi, I'm 369."
"Oh! I mean, computer 369. I have some prints to pick up."
"Oh, certainly, it will be just a moment."

(Patron wiggles and mini-paces back and forth in front of my desk. Giggles like a little girl, although he is about 250 pounds and looks something like Barry White.)

"It will probably be a few minutes as it appears that you have a number of pages."
"Oh that's okay. I'm just addicted to flesh, you know, there's just something about it. I don't know what it is."
I smile and nod, as if I know what the hell in the hootenany he's talking about. And although I try hard not to notice what patrons are printing, it's impossible to not see the all caps http://BIGGEST_BLACK_DICK_IN_THE_WORLD_!" come up on the printer release screen. This among other, more imaginative titles.

He continues to jiggle and twitch, and I pretend to straighten the returned reference books.

"I've just got to look, you know?"
"Sure, uh huh."

I love the library.

Monday, April 11, 2005


Originally uploaded by schmangela.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Things from this week:
-Little Portly the cat ripped a one inch hole in my sister's left ear with her claws as she was climbing on her shoulders and batting at her pony tail.
-House buying anxiety roller coaster as we go through the motions; race to put in the offer before anyone else, hold our breath while the seller's flaky agent takes her time to present said offer, freak out about the acceptance, worry about the inspection, which goes off with only minor repairs needed (no dead bodies in the crawlspace like we imagined), and finally, in the home stretch, we get to play the exciting game "Will Our Loan Fall Through (At the Last Minute, Baby)".
-Having spent every last cent we have, and a few extra, actually, Chris purchases his first crappy 99 cent beer and toasts the upcoming financial drought upon our house.
-My allergies take a turn for the better, until I acknowledge that fact out loud to a friend, and then they come back in one big happy fiesta group: itchy eyes, chronic fatigue, death rattle cough(!), sinus pressure, and mucus, oh the mucus!
-A guy flips out at the pharmacy counter where I am patiently waiting to get my steroid inhaler, flabbergasting the attendant and making everybody stop, yet no one does anything. Basically, all I caught of the interaction was the flipper yelling at the flippee: "Just give me the goddamn bag! It's like you don't trust me!"
-Our realtor confides that she could never be on "Fear Factor."
-Library patrons continue to print out an enormous amount of color pornography!
OCD Central:

Every night I put my lunch out on the table in the same arrangement: banana curved outward to the right, orange and apple nestled next to it, tea bag on top of the orange, granola bar underlining everything.

Often I sat bolt upright in the middle of the night, breathing hard and wide awake from a recurring nightmare in which the bathroom linen closet did not have at least four, preferably six rolls of toilet paper neatly arranged beside the carefully rolled towels.

Getting myself out of the house in the morning was a path fraught with obstacles, from getting exactly 13 plaits in my long braid to "just checking" to make sure that the lights were off in every room. I went like this: I'd turn off a light, get a few steps away, and then a scary, insistent version of my voice would pipe up, asking me if I was really sure that the light was off. How did I know? So I'd go back and run my finger over the switch, in the down position, room dark, and then leave the room again. I'd get down the hall, or maybe even make it to the kitchen, and look back, sure that I could see the light on, and have to trudge back to check again.

I'd put my wallet in my backpack, push it securely into the bottom, zip it up, and the whispering question would waft through my brain. "Hey, there Angela. Are you sure you put your wallet in your bag? Maybe you should just have a look see." I'd look, and there it was, just like I thought. I'd rezip, head out to the car, then have to just make sure one more time, foot on the bumper, keys dangling from my mouth.

In spite of all this checking and rechecking, I still managed to do the things I feared the most. I locked my keys in the car with the car running. I left my wallet on the table at the restaurant. I didn't write down to whom I lent my favorite sweater. I lost things all the time. Fate intervened to bring disaster. Our toaster oven spontaneously combusted and had to be thrown out the back door, still flaming, into the rainy parking lot. Our dog pulled my used tampons out of the garbage and spread them in an artful display all over the front lawn. And still I worried, had to have things done my way.

If my husband left any dishes from his hastily consumed breakfast, they had to be rinsed and stacked in neat piles; plates to the right, silverware to the front, glasses on the left, faucet turned slightly toward them before I could try to leave the kitchen, running my finger over the light switch as I did so.

I'd scrub the tub that I just watched my husband clean, wipe down the counter right behind him, even though he'd done an admirable job.

"I just cleaned that."
"I know, I'm just...finishing up." A cheery shrug and a helpless smile.

He'd walk in on me scrubbing the grout between the tiles in the bathroom with an old toothbrush, sweat pouring into my eyes, hair stringy across my face in the sweltering summer heat.

"I can help you with that." He'd poke his head in and dangle an open beer above a section I just finished.

"No, I'm good," I'd say, hoping like hell he'd back the fuck up before he dropped the bottle, because if that happened, we'd have problems.

"You're good alright. Good and crazy."

And in this way, without formal discussion, I nudged him out of the household chores altogether, although to his credit, he never stopped trying to help me.

I might have been a nutjob in just my personal life, but no, it had to spill over into my professional life as well. As the manager of a trendy coffee shop, I would often be unable to delegate cleaning jobs to the rest of the staff, and if it was a slow night, I could often be found on my hands and knees scrubbing the coffee stains off the floor or scraping boogers off the underside of tables. Everything had to be sparkling and put away properly before I could leave for the night. My boss loved me.

It was physically impossible for me to walk down the sidewalk without counting the number of steps to a square. If my gas tank was less than half full, it would consume my thoughts until I dropped everything and got it filled up. Drinking a martini was a complex affair; five sips, one olive, five sips, one olive. If I ran out of olives before the end of the drink, the whole night would be shot.

I took Prozac for my obsessive-compulsive behavior for almost three weeks before I woke up one day and walked to the bathroom without running my finger over the hall light switch to make sure it was off. After I put toothpaste on my toothbrush without hearing even a whisper of my internal voice's painstaking aesthetic qualifications, I caught my own eye in the mirror and smiled. Tonight, I'd let my husband wash the dishes.