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.